BigAir supplies wireless broadband to Sydneysiders

Consumers and businesses situated in broadband “black spots” and multi-tenant dwellings are being pinpointed as the key market for Sydney’s latest commercial wireless ISP.

BigAir officially launched its wireless broadband service on Wednesday, promising customers currently unable to access high-speed services or located in residential and business apartments an affordable, high-speed wireless solution.

The BigAir wireless service is based on a point to multi-point fixed wireless infrastructure operating across the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz regulated radio spectrum band. Both the ISP’s basestations, as well as the wireless equipment installed at the customer’s premises, communicates via line of sight.

BigAir co-founder, Jason Ashton, said one of the biggest benefits for customers is that BigAir owns the wireless network from “end-to-end”.

The service bypasses the copper network and is directly connected to the Global Switch Data Centre in Sydney, allowing BigAir to run a wireless service independent of Telstra’s infrastructure, he said. But BigAir isn't planning on wholesaling the service to resellers - Ashton said BigAir would be offering its services through direct sales only.

BigAir’s service is symmetrical, meaning customers will be able to download and upload data at the same speed. The service is based on 802.11 technology and employs the building’s existing telecom ethernet wiring to distribute the service to each customer’s premises.

BigAir’s residential services will offer a minimum of 1Mbps symmetrical access speeds, with business-specific services starting from 2Mbps.

Ashoton said the ISP hoped to increase the service’s access speed to 10Mbps for all customers in the next 12 months.

“We believe we have the plan in place [to do this],” he said.

The BigAir residential wireless service starts at $49.95 per month on a 12-month contract, with a 1GB monthly download limit. Products with higher monthly download limits are also available.

The ISP will also be offering business plans from around $79.95 per month.

Professional installation of the service for both residential and business users costs $99.

Although BigAir is focusing on multi-tenant buildings and does not plan to “actively target” single dwelling homes at this stage, Ashton said the ISP would do single dwelling installations as well. These types of users could expect to pay about $199 for a professional installation.

BigAir was formed by former Magna Data Australia managing director and co-founder, Jason Ashton, and PowerTel employee, Patrick Choi. The ISP was awarded a carrier licence by the Australian Communications Authority in 2002, and has been providing commercial services to a limited number of customers in Sydney since 2003.

The privately-owned ISP raised over $2 million in investment capital in December last year, which funded the technical trials and commercial launch of BigAir’s service.

BigAir now has base stations in four locations across Sydney, including Surry Hills and North Sydney. Each offers 10 square kilometres of coverage.

This included about 15,000 homes and 25,000 businesses, Ashton said.

About 38 per cent of Sydneysiders currently live in multi-tenant buildings – a figure that will only increase in the future.

While there are no current plans to expand outside of Sydney, Ashton did not rule pursuing other capital cities “later on”.

The ISP would also consider offering non-line of the sight technologies when it is affordable.

In the meantime, BigAir plans to have at least 10 base stations in place across Sydney by the end of 2004. The ISP has forecast it will install the service in 10 buildings per month moving forward.

At present, customer sign-ups in buildings with the BigAir service installed sits at between 10 per cent and 20 per cent, Ashton said.

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